The city's twin icons, the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, can both be found on Port Jackson (a.k.a. Sydney Harbour). The area encompasses Circular Quay—a pedestrian quarter and bustling ferry hub—and the historic Rocks district, site of the first European settlement. The Central Business District radiates out from the southern end of the quay. Across the bridge lie the northern suburbs, which end in the lovely Northern Beaches, including swanky celeb favorite Palm Beach. South of the city center are the waterfront suburbs of Vaucluse, Rose Bay, and Double Bay, while to the southeast you'll find hip neighborhoods such as Paddington, Darlinghurst, and Surry Hills. Further east you'll find the famous beaches of Bondi, Bronte, Coogee, and Clovelly. The once working-class western suburbs of Leichardt, Newtown, and Glebe are more bohemian in flavor and offer great street life and people-watching.
WHEN TO GO
No time is the wrong time to visit this outdoor city, where even winter tends to be balmy and the coldest month (July) averages six hours of sunshine per day. Since Sydney is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed, with December to February being high summer and June to August winter. Springtime, starting in September, brings the festivals as well as the flowers—Manly Jazz Festival on Australian Labor Day weekend in October is one highlight. Since summertime coincides with Christmas, December is hysterically festive and the city continues to party through New Year's and on to Australia Day on Jan. 26. Even after that, outdoor music events, regattas, festivals, swimming and surfing competitions, and more keep going right through the beginning of fall in March—the wettest month, with some five inches of rainfall. It's true that winter is not so cold, but temperatures can drop into the low 40s. Then again, a 60-degree day in July is not uncommon, and those clear, sunny skies help keep spirits high.
HOW TO GET THERE
Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport is on the northern shore of Botany Bay. Flight time from New York is about 20 hours, 30 minutes; from Los Angeles it's about 14 hours, 40 minutes. Australia's national airline, Qantas (800-227-4500; www.qantas.com/us), has the most flights, though United and British Airways also serve the airport. The CityRail Airport Link (www.airportlink.com.au) departs every ten minutes from about 5 a.m. to midnight for the ten-minute journey to Central Station. A taxi to the city center costs around $20.
Sydney isn't especially compact, so if you plan to venture regularly outside the tourist hubs or to take day trips, a rental car can be a good option. The major companies have counters at Sydney's Kingsford Smith airport. The train and bus systems are clean and efficient. Trains make stops around the city center on the City Circle Line, at the Circular Quay, Wynyard, Town Hall, Central, Museum, and St. James stations. For bus routes, visit www.sydneybuses.nsw.gov.au.
For visitors and residents alike, there's nothing like catching a ferry to your destination (many Sydney commuters take this most scenic form of transport to and from work every day). Ferries run often between the charming seaside suburb of Manly and other bays around the city; buy tickets at the kiosks at Circular Quay. For times and routes, consult www.sydneyferries.info.
Stock up on maps, brochures, and friendly Aussie advice at one of the City Host Information Kiosks around the Central Business District (there's one at Circular Quay, and what the heck, you're going to be there anyway), or drop into the Sydney Visitor Centre in the Rocks (Argyle and Playfair streets; 61-2-9240-8788; www.sydneyvisitorcentre.com).View Australia Factsheet